Tag: relievers

Salomon Torres Retires

In a surprise move, Brewers closer Salomon Torres retired from baseball last week. Yeah, we’re a week late here but it takes a while for the pony express to get here from Wisconsin.

Torres chose to quit baseball in order to devote more time to serving God and his family.

Torres had the best season of his up-and-down career, saving 28 games and posting a 3.49 ERA for Milwaukee, who despite the retirement, chose to pick up the $3.5M option on his contract. The startling news further weakens an already emaciated Brewer bullpen, and puts them in the market for just about any relievers that are available.

So, add another team looking for a closer … and a setup man … and a few middle relievers … and a LOOGY.

Will this adversely affect the Mets’ pursuit of bullpen help? Possibly. While the Brewers aren’t likely to outbid the Mets on anyone, they could pluck some bargains (Kerry Wood) and have enough young talent to deal away for someone such as Huston Street or Bobby Jenks.


K-Rod Took a Physical in NYC?

According to Victor David Melo Zurita Jose Manuel Fernandez, the beat writer for El Universal, Francisco Rodriguez took a physical in New York City and may be ready to sign with the New York Mets.

Before we get too excited, Victor David Melo Zurita Jose Manuel Fernandez isn’t exactly the Jon Heyman of Caracas. Though he does have a lot of names.

I would be very surprised to find out K-Rod was taking a physical for the Mets this quickly. From all reports, the Mets are offering only three years, and he wants five. If it’s even true the Mets made an offer, it behooves him to check with other teams over the next few weeks to gauge the market. In fact, I’m 99.9% certain this “report” is hogwash.

But, if I don’t post it, then I’d be remiss in participating in a full day of media nonsense.

Hat tip to Micalpalyn.

****** UPDATE *******

It’s indeed possible K-Rod took a physical in New York. But it had nothing to do with the Mets, and more likely a preliminary step in his own process of selling himself to any team.


K-Rod Price Falling

Several sources are suggesting that the price for Francisco Rodriguez is falling quickly, and the Mets would do well to wait him out.

At five years, $75M, K-Rod is a risk, due to his violent throwing motion and the 408 career appearances in his young career. At, say, three years and $40M, signing him is a no-brainer.

It helps immensely that the Angels have moved on — and makes one wonder why they were so quick to leave the bidding. They know K-Rod better than anyone … is there some well-kept medical secret they’re not sharing? The Angels don’t appear to have an immediate in-house replacement, and Rodriguez has been a key to their success for the last six years. Makes one wonder.

Also, it helps that the deep-pocketed Red Sox and Yankees have no need for a closer. Further, that the Cubs seem more interested in retaining Kerry Wood than opening up their wallets. The Dodgers are too busy trying to keep Manny Ramirez, and probably aren’t in the market for a closer anyway. With those four clubs out of the running, who is left with the money to take on K-Rod?

In the past few years, the Giants have come out of nowhere to make ridiculously high signings (for Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand), so they are always a possibility. The Reds made a big splash last winter on Francisco Cordero — but obviously, they wouldn’t be looking to sign another big-ticket closer. Those two teams in Texas like to do things “big” every now and then, and both could use a bonafide closer, so I’d guess they will be the top bidders for the Mets to watch (ironically, there’s already a Texas sports talk radio station called “KROD“). It may come down to whether K-Rod truly wants to be on the big stage that is New York City.


Henry Owens Suspended for PEDs

Former Mets farmhand and current Florida Marlin reliever Henry Owens has been suspended by MLB for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

Hat tip to MetsToday reader Schmidtxtc for alerting us.

After emerging as a potential setup man in early 2007 (posting a 1.96 ERA in 22 games), Owens suffered shoulder injuries that eventually led to rotator cuff surgery that August. He spent most of 2008 rehabbing, and it can be surmised that the undisclosed PED may have been used to accelerate the recovery.


Mets Pitching Answers from Japan?

The Mets need to add this winter, at minimum, one starting pitcher and one relief pitcher. They would like to do that without trading away any of their few near-MLB-ready prospects, and without having to commit to an overvalued, long-term contract.

Enter Japanse hurlers Koji Uehara and Kenshin Kawakami.

Uehara is a veteran starter-turned-closer who will be 34 years old next year, and is intent on playing in the US in 2009. He’s a free-agent who will not be subject to the ridiculous posting process, which is nice. Although he has been an outstanding pitcher in Japan, and saved 30 games last season, I doubt he’ll come in and be a star in MLB. But from the reports, it sounds like he could be a decent middle reliever or back-of-the-rotation guy. Because of the difficulty in projecting his success, he should command a cheaper deal than similarly talented American free agents.

Kawakami is reportedly on the same level as Uehara, or possibly a notch below, and will likely cost in the neighborhood of $30M for three years. Like Uehara, he projects as a middle reliever / swing man.

Of course, there is enough projection to make signing either of these pitchers risky. But both of them are among the best pitchers in Japan, and the majority of recent imports — i.e., Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hiroki Kuroda, Hideki Okajima, Takashi Saito — have proven to be solid MLBers. Unlike position players coming from Japan, the pitchers seem to be more likely to make a smooth transition after crossing the Paciifc. Yes, you can point out Kei Igawa as a failure, but he seems to be the exception rather than the rule (I feel that Igawa was neither mentally nor emotionally prepared to make the move to MLB, and NYC in particular).

There are two things I like about taking a chance on either Uehara or Kawakami. First, all they cost is money — no one needs to be traded, and no draft picks will be lost. Compare that to who might have to be traded for, say, Kevin Gregg, or the #1 pick that would be surrendered for a middle man such as Doug Brocail. Second, the Japanese pitchers have the advantage of mystery — batters never having seen them before — which seems to be an advantage on its own for at least a year. After that “mystery period”, both should be well prepared to adjust to MLB hitters after the hitters adjust to them, since they are longtime veterans (unlike Igawa, but like Saito).

The most obvious problem, of course, is the Mets’ recent history with Asian imports. Kaz Matsui was a bust, and Mr. Koo was underwhelming. But that shouldn’t keep them from trying again. After all, Tsuyoshi Shinjo can be judged as a success.

For more on ALL the Japanese free agents, check out NPBTracker, which provides fantastic coverage of baseball in Japan. Also, hat tip to MLBTradeRumors.

ADDENDUM: apparently all the Mets bloggers are thinking alike today. Check out Andrew Beaton’s post on Japanese imports at the HotFootBlog and a video of Uehara posted at MetsBlog.


Trevor Hoffman Available

According to various reports, closer Trevor Hoffman will not return to the San Diego Padres.

This of course is meaningful to Mets fans because the Flushing Fabulosos are in need of a closer. And why not the most prolific fireman in MLB history?

It could make sense from the standpoint that Hoffman would be relatively cheap and inexpensive — at least, compared to the jaw-dropping deals requested by Brian Fuentes and Francisco Rodriguez. But, there are caveats.

First of all, despite his 554 career saves, Hoffman’s most memorable moments are failure — specifically, in the 1998 World Series and the 2006 All-Star Game (he wasn’t so hot in the 2000 All-Star Game, either). Sure, it’s only two incidents, but they were the biggest games of his life. Not good signs for someone pitching under the microscope in New York City.

Secondly, Hoffman’s numbers regressed dramatically in 2008. His ERA bloated a full run over his career mark, and his eight homeruns allowed were the most since 2001. Though he blew only four saves, he seemed to struggle more than in previous years.

Interestingly, pitcher-friendly PetCo Park was not an advantage for Hoffman — he gave up 14 runs in the 29 innings he pitched there.

Is he worth considering? Why not? In my opinion, he’s better than Brian Fuentes, and will require much less in terms of years and dollars. An ideal stopgap, if he’s interested in pitching in New York.


Competition for Closers

Several teams are interested in Ms reliever JJ Putz

Several teams are interested in Ms reliever JJ Putz

Mets fans — myself included — tend to look at the winter market in a vacuum, seeing things only from the Flushing perspective. Unfortunately, there are 29 other teams in MLB, and many of them are — like the Mets — looking for a closer.

When it comes to free agents, the Mets have the advantage of deeper pockets than most teams — and there are few teams willing to consider the figure that Francisco Rodriguez will command. But if the Mets don’t get K-Rod (and hopefully, pass on Brian Fuentes), do they really have a chance to land a solid closer via trade?

Omar Minaya has insisted that the Mets “have the depth” to acquire a closer. But, number one, is he talking about a shaky closer (Kevin Gregg), a closer with plenty of question marks (B.J. Ryan), a closer who is coming off a bad year (J.J. Putz), or a legitimate, lights-out closer (Bobby Jenks)?

I don’t doubt that the Mets have the goods to trade for someone with closing experience. I’m just not sure that I’d (a) be happy with the “closer” acquired; or (b) judge the deal as fair for both sides.

The problem is that because most teams in the market for a closer can’t afford K-Rod, most are instead looking to make a trade. These are just a few of the teams likely in the market for a closer: Tigers, Angels (assuming they don’t re-sign K-Rod), Cubs (if they don’t re-up Kerry Wood), Indians, Rangers, Rockies (if they don’t sign Fuentes), Brewers, and Cardinals. In addition, the Braves may be looking to add, say, Huston Street, as a setup man or insurance against Mike Gonzalez. Similarly, the Diamondbacks may not be so convinced Chad Qualls is the answer as their 9th-inning man. The Dodgers are likely looking for an extra arm, with Joe Beimel a free agent and 38-year-old Takashi Saito no guarantee after a major elbow injury.

I’m not saying the Mets can’t compete with those teams in trade talks — rather, that the breadth of competition creates increased demand. So instead of the Mets trading, say, Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell for a J.J. Putz, the market condition bloats that package to include Dan Murphy and/or Fernando Martinez. Put another way, instead of getting a Kevin Gregg for a AA suspect (i.e., Michael Antonini), the cost is now an MLB-ready prospect or two (i.e., Niese and Parnell). In essence, paying double.

If my theory is correct, the Mets may be better off trying to sign someone like Brandon Lyon to a short-term, inexpensive deal (if that’s possible) — similar to what they did in the 2003-2004 winter with Braden Looper. In other words, get a stopgap, and hope that either the market conditions change, or someone from within (Brant Rustich? Brad Holt?) takes the fast track toward a 2010 / 2011 debut.